Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg revealed more details about the charges his office is bringing against former President Donald Trump.
Earlier today, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records at Manhattan Criminal Court.
‘Under New York state law, it is a felony to falsify business records with intent to defraud or intent to conceal another crime,’ Bragg said. ‘Thirty-four false statements made to cover up other crimes. These are felony crimes in New York state, no matter who you are.’
The charges against Trump relate to hush money payments the former president allegedly made to adult film star Stormy Daniels. He reportedly paid the actress for her silence through his attorney, Michael Cohen, and reimbursed him for ‘legal services.’
‘The defendant repeatedly made false statements on New York business records. He also caused others to make false statements,’ Bragg said. ‘The defendant claimed he was paying Michael Cohen for legal services in 2017. This simply was not true.’
Bragg said the payments also violated New York and federal election laws, and accused the former president of running ‘a scheme to buy and suppress negative information to help Mr Trump’s chances in the election.’
Bragg said Trump and Cohen did this by running a ‘catch and kill’ scheme, in which various shell companies bought and suppressed negative stories about Trump before they were widely reported.
‘New York state election law makes it a crime to conspire or promote a candidacy by unlawful means,’ Bragg said.
What is Trump charged with and what’s next?
WHAT’S THIS CASE ABOUT?
The grand jury spent weeks investigating money paid during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign to two women who alleged that they had extramarital sexual encounters with him.
Trump has denied the allegations.
His former lawyer Michael Cohen, who testified as a key prosecution witness, paid Daniels $130,000 through a shell company he set up and was then reimbursed by Trump, whose company logged the repayments as legal expenses.
Earlier in 2016, Cohen also arranged for former Playboy model Karen McDougal to be paid $150,000 by the publisher of the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer, which squelched her story in a journalistically dubious practice known as ‘catch and kill’.
WHAT’S AN INDICTMENT?
An indictment is the formal charge brought against someone after a grand jury — which is made up of members of the community — votes and enough members agree there’s sufficient evidence to charge someone with a crime.
The indictment against Trump remains sealed, as is standard in New York before an arraignment. But once the document is made public, it will lay out the crime or crimes that Trump is accused of committing.
Sometimes indictments include a lengthy narrative with lots of details about the allegations, while others are more basic and just outline the charges a defendant is facing.
WHAT ARE THE CHARGES?
Trump is facing multiple charges of falsifying business records, including at least one felony offense, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss information that isn’t yet public.
Under the law, prosecutors must prove there was an ‘intent to defraud’.
The felony falsifying business records offense requires prosecutors to prove that the records were falsified with the intention of committing, aiding or concealing a second crime.
It’s not clear yet what prosecutors allege the second crime to be, but experts have said it is probably some kind of campaign finance violation.
WHAT’S AN ARRAIGNMENT?
An arraignment is generally the first time a defendant appears in court after being charged.
The judge will tell Trump the charges against him and advise him of his right to go to trial and other things.
Trump will enter a plea of not guilty — as is standard for defendants to do at arraignment. The indictment is expected to be unsealed upon his arraignment.
Trump is expected to walk out of the courtroom because the charges against him don’t require that bail be set in New York.
It’s possible — but unlikely — that Judge Juan Merchan could decide that Trump is a flight risk and order him held, with or without bail, though Trump’s lawyers would vigorously fight that.
WHAT WILL TRUMP’S DEFENSE BE?
Trump’s lawyers have vowed to ‘vigorously fight this political prosecution in court’.
Defense attorney Joe Tacopina has described Trump as a victim of extortion who had to pay the money because the allegations were going to be embarrassing to him. But he says it had nothing to do with the campaign.
Trump will no doubt try to fight the case on multiple fronts. He may try to have the case moved out of Manhattan or New York City entirely — arguing he can’t get a fair trial there — though it’s rare for judges to agree to do that.
Trump may also argue that the statute of limitations has passed.
He has complained that the statute of limitations ‘long ago expired’ because the hush money payments and Cohen’s reimbursements happened more than six years ago.
New York’s statute of limitations for most felonies is five years. For misdemeanors, it’s just two years. But in New York, the clock can stop on the statute of limitations when a potential defendant is continuously outside the state.
Trump visited New York rarely over the four years of his presidency and now lives mostly in Florida and New Jersey.
WHAT ARE THE POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS FOR TRUMP?
Neither the indictment itself nor a conviction would prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.
Already, the charges have been a boon to his fundraising. The campaign announced Friday evening that it had raised over $4 million in the 24 hours after the indictment became public, far smashing its previous record after the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
Trump’s team over the weekend blasted out emails full of supportive comments from dozens of top Republicans, many of whom had already been supportive of him leading up to the indictment.
Those likely to be facing off with Trump in next year’s GOP primary contests have also slammed the prosecution.
Former Vice President Mike Pence called the indictment ‘an outrage’ and ‘nothing more than a political prosecution’.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said on Twitter that the indictment ‘is more about revenge than it is about justice’.
Biotech investor Vivek Ramaswamy, who is also seeking the GOP presidential nomination, called the indictment ‘a dark moment in American history’.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Saturday accused District Attorney Alvin Bragg of weaponizing the law ‘for political purposes’ to bring a case against a former president, never mentioning Trump by name.
‘True and accurate business records are important everywhere, to be sure. But they are all the more important in Manhattan – the financial center of the world.’
Bragg also said his office was very familiar with prosecuting charges of falsifying business records, calling it the ‘bread and butter of our white collar work.’
According to Bragg, the charge has been used to prosecute cases where defendants violated bank secrecy laws, covered up sex crimes, and committed tax fraud.
‘Fraud presents itself in all different forms in Manhattan,’ Bragg said. ‘At its core, this case today is one with allegations like so many of our white collar cases. Allegations that someone lied again and again to protect their interests and evade the laws to which we are all held accountable.’
Got a story? Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]. Or you can submit your videos and pictures here.
For more stories like this, check our news page.
Follow Metro.co.uk on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news updates. You can now also get Metro.co.uk articles sent straight to your device. Sign up for our daily push alerts here.
Source: Read Full Article